Despite palm oil boycott by India: Mahathir stands by IOK comments

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday said he would not retract his criticism of New Delhi’s actions in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) even though Indian traders had urged a boycott of Malaysian palm oil.

The impasse could exacerbate what Mahathir described as a trade war between the world’s second biggest producer and exporter of the commodity and its biggest buyer so far this year. “We speak our minds, and we don’t retract or change,” Mahathir told reporters outside parliament.

“What we are saying is we should all abide by resolutions of the [United Nations].Otherwise, what is the use of the UN?” On August 5, India imposed restrictions on people’s movements and communications in the IOK to quell unrest there, calling it an internal matter and criticising countries that had spoken against the move.

Mahathir said last month at the United Nations that India had “invaded and occupied” Jammu and Kashmir and asked New Delhi to work with Pakistan to resolve the issue.

The UN Security Council adopted several resolutions in 1948 and in the 1950s on the dispute between India and Pakistan over the IOK, including one which says a plebiscite should be held to determine the future of the region.

Mahathir said Malaysia would study the impact of the boycott called by the Mumbai-based Solvent Extractors’ Association of India and look at ways to address the issue.

New Delhi has so far refused to comment on the trade dispute with Malaysia.

“This is not the Indian government, so we have to find out how we can communicate with these people, because trade is a two-way thing and it is bad to have what amounts to a trade war,” Mahathir said.

Malaysian palm oil futures slipped on Tuesday over concerns that demand from India would fall. India was Malaysia’s third-largest export destination in 2018 for palm oil and palm-based products worth 6.84 billion Malaysian ringgit ($1.63bn).

Malaysia’s total exports to India were worth $10.8bn in the fiscal year that ended on March 31, while imports totalled $6.4bn, according to Indian government data. Malaysia said last week it was considering raising imports of raw sugar and buffalo meat from India, in a bid to ease the trade tensions.

India, the world’s biggest importer of edible oils, also buys palm oil from Indonesia as well as soybean oil from Argentina and Brazil, and sunflower oil from Ukraine.

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